Moral Philosophy of Ioannes Duns ScotusJune 27, 2021
Duns Scotus’ morality is shaped around his idea of the will. Duns Scotus does not accept the relatively balanced relationship that Thomas Aquinas has established between reason and will. Thomas Aquinas thought that reason gives the will an impetus at first to achieve the goal of the will, but then leaves it free in its actions. By contrast, Duns Scotus, under the influence of Bonaventura, argues that the will is formally separate from reason and is also nobler (a higher faculty) than reason. According to him, will is a free power (potentia libera). In this nature, too, it is superior to the mind, which has a natural inclination; because it is inherently free (Aspell, 1999: 285).
The mind ascends directly and unquestioningly to the truth and is therefore irrational. The will, on the other hand, is rational in so far as it freely chooses its object known to the mind. Duns Scotus calls the action of the will rational; According to him, rationality is to act together with the mind. For this very reason, according to him, the will is radically rational in nature (Aspell, 1999: 286). Because of this rationality, the will somehow needs reason for its actions; however, it includes a more grounded activity than the mind (Dumont, 2006: 367).
Scotus bases his morality on the will and the good. Will has a structure that is contrary to the general operation of nature. In other words, there is a difference between the behavior of the will and that of nature. The will, then, determines and desires its purpose freely and through itself. At the same time, the will, while trying to reach its freely determined goal, also acts freely on the things that will carry it to this goal. This purpose is what is good in itself in every way. The good, according to Duns Scotus, appears as a property of all beings. Therefore, morality is established on the basis of reason and freedom in Duns Scotus’ thought. This reason and freedom are necessary for the emergence of responsibility, autonomy and power of management that make human actions moral (Aspell, 1999: 287).
According to Duns Scotus, it is possible to talk about two kinds of goodness. The primary of these is not according to the natural order of things; but it is a kind of goodness that belongs to the willful action itself, which is shaped according to the commands of the right mind, directed towards the determined object. For example, theft or murder are actions that would go against this right mind. Therefore, the commandments/prohibitions expressed in the Bible are also within the scope of these righteous commandments. Therefore, these are the commandments that men must obey in the first place. Human actions in the form of obedience to these commands ensure the actuality of moral goodness at the target of the behavior performed by free will. Secondary goodness is the goodness at the target that emerges as a result of taking into account the environmental conditions such as place and time during the shaping of the behavior. This kind of kindness, therefore, puts purpose first. The love of God, to love God, constitutes the highest act of man as the ultimate goal. When God is chosen as a goal, nothing will happen that can go against right reason. Therefore, the ultimate goal that the will will direct man to himself with all his features is God (Aspell, 1999: 287-288).
Duns Scotus thinks that the place where righteous reason arises is the natural law embodied in God’s will. According to him, “Divine will is the cause of good; This is the case because God wants something to be good.” (Act. Aspell, 1999: 289; Duns Scotus, Rep. Par. I, d. 8, q. 1). This, of course, should not be taken as God’s willing that something that is not good right now is good. Because there can never be such a contradiction in Him. That God’s will is aimed at good is entirely due to His pure good nature. This nature gives man the idea to turn and obey all the goodness in Him. The limited will, that is, the will of man, commands the realization of good and avoidance of evil; because limited human being is already surrounded by the commands of his unlimited creator in the existential sense.
In addition to the natural law shaped by the divine will, it is necessary to talk about a positive law. This type of law is formed as a result of God’s affirmation of natural law. The Ten Commandments, two of which we have mentioned above, are the best example of positive law. They obey natural law and are even mandatory. Due to its universal character, the natural law may not always express complete certainty. Changing times and places in human life can create blurs under different conditions. Therefore, positive law should be understood as the law dictated by God to overcome the cognitive and ontological limitations of natural law. These laws are